Grayson Perry: the watch, the tie, the tattoo? It’s a man thing

Grayson Perry discovers a mans world reflected in six everyday objects

Recently, I have found myself looking at everything and asking why it is the way “its by”. Of course, a brick wall is just a brick wall. But are bricks that sizing because mens hands are that sizing? Are bollards a phallic symbol associated with male influence? What would bollards look like if ladies governed the world? Its always worth questioning the most banal sectors of the society. So here are six objects I think illustrate something about masculinity and its stranglehold on the gaze and experience of our world.


The tie-up

The textile phallus is still with us. Men have clung on to it, together with the whole suit that goes with it, for well over a hundred years. It represents an image of what is considered normal, but the tie-up is such a blatant fragment of symbolism that it really needs to be questioned. It goes with the Victorian principle of the stiff upper lip, which applies to men who were engendered in public schools to rule the empire. You had to suffer a bit, and one of the things you had to sustain wore a stiff collar and tie-up, being buttoned-up, and ambling about in the tropical heat in a three-piece suit. Its all part of the idea that youve get criteria to preserve, and that youre tough.

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Watches with knobs on

These are such an epitome of masculinity that they have almost become a metaphor for it. Nobody needs a watch any more because you can use a telephone to tell the time, but this is often the only piece of jewellery men wear. These watches have got lots of parts, and knobs poking out of them, that theyre never going to need, which is just like masculinity, genuinely: all the ideas of aggressivenes, strength and dominance that come with masculinity are redundant these days. Masculinity is incompatible with the western democratic project.

Fancy watches are an adornment to hint that are able to one day ascent Everest or dive 200 metres below the surface area of the sea. Or that you need a lap timer, because youre going to take the family vehicle around Silverstone any minute now. And of course what actually appealing about them is that they are very decorative. But men have to pretend there is a requirement to these features somehow that one day they will need to know what altitude theyre at.

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/ Getty Images

The Walkie-Talkie building( 20 Fenchurch Street, London )

All skyscrapers are to a certain extent phallic, but there is something especially belligerent about the facts of the case that this one get plonked some interval from the cluster that makes up the City of London, that it is hideously ugly, and that it bolt up the panorama along the Thames. Its like a big, blunt, phallic fist punching upwards. It could only have been designed by a humankind( Rafael Violy ).

The issue is that men just dont notice this kind of territory label. Talking to men about masculine society is like talking to fish about water; they dont notice that masculinitys appreciate structure is the medium in which they move. White, middle-class humankind is never objection; he just sails through life because life has been designed by his tribe.

To question that is somehow very difficult. There is an implicit belief that all other identities are falsified different versions of his identity. That needs to be challenged.

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Tribal-style tattoos

These probably taken away from in the late 1980 s or early 90 s, those zig-zaggy, black motifs that are a bit barbed-wiry but kind of abstract, and now you consider them everywhere. Often there are desperate attempts to weave them into a Japanese sleeve tattoo, because tribal tattoos going to go out of fashion. But there was a degree some time in the early 90 s when you are able to should be noted that design on everything that was supposed to be masculine: bicycle frames, leather jackets, backpacks for school sons It intimates at some kind of primal masculinity that men are going to get back to.

One of the big flaws of masculinity is that its nostalgic. Feminism gazes to a better time in the future, whereas a lot of masculinity is about complaining that its not like the old days, when men were men. These marks, and Bear Grylls-style survival depicts, are harking back to an reckoned tribal identity where men had their rightful region. Men need to find a role in the world that we live in now.

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Overcomplicated center heating controls

This is an aspect of masculinity that I would call the overly logical. Men were of the view that because these new center heating controls are unbelievably logical, everybody must be able to understand them. I call it a problem of masculinity because its men who cling on to the idea that they have the monopoly on rationality. In reality, of course, they are just as emotional as anyone else.

You have to deal with emotions, and to do so you have to know them. Girls are much better at that, because theyre brought up to talk about their thoughts, so theyre much more well informed when they are seeming angry, disturbed or startled. Men are often extremely insensitive to whats going on with their emotions.

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